In the following general guide on cannabis-infused edibles, we’ll be diving into the science behind why the effects are different from smoking or vaping weed. After we understand the differences between these delivery methods, we’ll discuss what consumers can do when trying out edibles or wanting to increase your dosage.

Like so many, when first starting out with edibles, you’re going to have burning questions about how long edibles take to have an effect, and how long this high can last. Today we’re going to dive a little bit into human physiology, and delve a lot into the wanted and unwanted effects of edibles.

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CBD and THC

Since CBD is not impairing or psychoactive in the same way, there is less concern with over-consuming CBD. That said, side-effects from too much CBD are possible, and include symptoms like diarrhea and headaches. THC can be much more problematic due to its ability to change our consciousness. THC has what is called biphasic effects on humans. This means that a low dose may cause one effect, while a higher dose causes the opposite effects. A little may help you feel carefree, while a lot may induce anxiety, for example. Due to THC being the key compound of interest for those wanting to get high off edibles, we’ll focus on that as it relates to effects and safety in the rest of this article.

Why is Eating Cannabis Different To Smoking?

Why do edibles feel different, and how long do the effects last? These questions will be answered in this article, but first, we need to understand a little bit about the science behind edibles. The main reason why edibles cause different effects than smoking is that absorption occurs via the digestive tract instead of the lungs. When you smoke cannabis, the THC is absorbed through your lungs and into your bloodstream. From there, the compounds circulate the body and brain, slowing being distributed throughout and getting broke down over time. When you swallow THC, it travels through the stomach and into the intestines, where the majority of absorption occurs. This THC absorption and absorption of many other nutrients we need to survive, enters the bloodstream after passing immediately through the liver. This called first-pass metabolism. The actions of your liver metabolizing drugs entering your bloodstream induce changes in the chemical composition. The THC itself is oxidized into a slightly different version, 11-hydroxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC).

We should note that this occurs with smoked cannabis, as the blood containing THC absorbed from the lungs travels through the body and eventually reaches the liver, undergoing the same oxidation. The difference is in the amount of 11-OH-THC in the body and the ratio with THC. THC that is absorbed via the lungs has plenty of time to be absorption by other tissues, including your brain and fatty tissue, before reaching the liver, and so less reach the liver. With edibles, much more of the THC goes directly through the liver after being digested in the stomach, leading to a more balanced ratio of THC to 11-OH-THC.

So what is different about 11-OH-THC? Research indicates that this compound has better capabilities of entering the brain and inducing psychoactive effects. In other words, 11-OH-THC appears to cross the blood-brain-barrier more efficiently. 11-OH-THC is potentially three times as potent as THC, with some estimates going up to seven times as potent. It is for these reasons that evidence suggests that an oral dose of weed is equivalent to a larger inhaled dose, at a ratio of 1:4-6. This is a tentative number but allows for some simple math. A half-gram joint with 15% THC contains 75-mg of cannabis. If you usually get quite high of sharing one of these with three people, your dose is around 20-mg after considering some loss due to inefficiencies. This would equate to an edible dosage of around 4-mg of THC. Starting low, maybe only 2-mg of THC to start would be a safe bet using this rough napkin math. If you usually smoke that entire joint yourself, that would equate to around 12-mg of THC, so you could start with 6 mg edibles dosage and increase from there.

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How Long Until Edibles Kick In?

Due to the alternative digestion and absorption process described above, edibles take much longer to produce effects than inhaled cannabis. With smoking, the effects begin within seconds to minutes. With edibles, effects can take 30 minutes to two hours or more to feel the full effects. There is a massive amount of variability in the absorption of edibles, depending on your body, your experience, and even factors from that day (how much sleep you’ve had, what you had to eat). This is why it is hard to provide concrete guidelines, and consumers should instead exercise caution as they find the dose that works for them. An edible high often feels different compared to inhaled cannabis, and the effects of edibles can last longer than expected or will last beyond the time when people still want to be high from edibles.

How Long Does The High Last?

Inhaled cannabis can induce a high lasting up to six hours. The edibles effect, however, can last for up to 12 hours. Some people who have taken unexpectedly high doses can, at times, feel high for up to 24 hours consuming. An edible dosage chart use may be useful for those trying to produce specific medical or recreational effects while avoiding over-consumption. For the average consumers of edibles, there is a simple rule to go by, ‘start low and go slow.’ The first time someone consumes, who does not have experience with smoking cannabis, should begin with the lowest dose possible. Somewhere in the 2.5 mg of THC is an excellent place to start for the edible, preferably with equal parts CBD if available.

People are often told to wait until the first effects are felt before having a higher dose. A slightly more cautious opinion would be to avoid multiple doses altogether. Taking what you need to feel effects and riding it out, and not taking more until your next time doing marijuana edibles. This next dose could be increased slightly if the effects were less than desired, maybe moving up to 4-5-mg of THC. The problem with having multiple doses, unless you have enough experience with edible cannabis, is that edibles will continue to compound. You can always consume more the next time you want to get high. And while this trip may not provide the high you desire, it is better than developing negative side-effects and ruining the whole experience. Especially when you consider that one overdose can screw up your entire next day, making it unsafe to drive and difficult to perform your usual duties.

To provide some concrete numbers, one study gave participants THC in brownies and found that the low dose, 10-mg, was tolerated well without side-effects. In contrast, the effect of edible doses at 25- and 50-mg induced unpleasant side-effects in some participants. Those with plenty of experience and a high tolerance may consume well over 50 mg, but that is far from where the average person should start. Also keep in mind that estimates of potency in homemade and grey-market products can be unreliable, and so many consumers report surprise at how potent 5-mg in a legal product may feel compared to a 20-mg product made by a friend.

Final Thoughts

So, now hopefully you feel confident in understanding how long edibles last, and how the different consumption methods impact the high. Now it’s time to try different kinds of edibles and carefully experiment with the dosage. Enjoy!